The following is part of a weekly series on unsolved homicides and suspected homicide cases in Fayette County and the surrounding area.
Even random murders where the killer has no connection to the victim can be part of a pattern that police can piece together and solve a crime.
Such is the case of a nearly 42-year-old murder investigation that left one teen dead and another seriously injured on Nov. 2, 1971, a few miles outside Charleroi in Washington County.
James W. Ramsey, 17, had been a student at California State College, now California University, according to newspaper accounts. Mary Ann Lundy, 16, was a student at Charleroi Area High School.
Trooper John F. Marshall, who oversees the cold case investigations for the state police station in Uniontown, said Ramsey and Lundy were good kids, not the type to attract trouble.
The two were driving on Fallowfield Township’s Route 515 when they saw a car that appeared to be disabled.
“They saw the car in front of them,” Marshall said “Thinking the vehicle was disabled, they pulled over. A black male got out of the car, walked over to the driver’s side and pulled out a weapon.”
Marshall said the armed man demanded to have sex with Lundy, and threatened to kill her. He said she refused and the man shot Ramsey in the head and her in the torso.
State police accounts from the time said the killer shot Ramsey through the windshield of the car. Lundy attempted to get out of the vehicle, but was shot in the stomach. Both were then left for dead.
After the shooting, police said, Lundy, though seriously wounded, managed to drive four miles to the hospital. Ramsey lingered near death in the former Charleroi-Monessen Hospital until he passed away about a day after he was shot.
Troopers at the time said they had no motive for the shooting and they did not know what type of gun was used, other than it was a handgun. Marshall said it a .38-caliber pistol.
Although under heavy sedation at the hospital following surgery, Lundy was able to tell investigators that the man was driving a four-door blue sedan. She was put under 24-hour guard at the hospital by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
Police circulated a composite drawing of a suspect. According to police accounts at that time, the man was 30 or 40 years old, 6 feet tall, clean shaven and of medium build.
“For the longest time, that was all police had,” Marshall said.
But that’s not where the story ends. Marshall said at some point, years later, Lundy was re-interviewed and another photo sketch was developed. Marshall said he believes the suspect is alive and the most recent activity on the case took place in January 2012.
“That’s where we are today,” Marshall said. “Suspects have come up and been eliminated. Other suspects have not been eliminated.”
Marshall among other detectives have said in past interviews with that in many cases, the killer and the victim have some connection and more likely knew each other. That means suspects can be developed more easily than they would be in random killings, much like those committed by serial killers.
Marshall said just because there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the killer and the teens he shot that November night, it doesn’t mean police can’t pursue leads based on similar patterns or crimes that occur elsewhere to develop a suspect. Their goal is to detect possible patterns that would indicate certain suspects.
“This is a random case, so you look for other random cases in the United States and that’s how a suspect has been developed,” Marshall said.